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January 9, 2012 at 4:15 PM

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King County Council supports gay marriage

The King County Council voted Monday to support gay marriage -- with the caveat that no religious entity would be required to perform or recognize same-sex marriage.

The council's pro-gay-marriage statement -- approved 8-1 with Kathy Lambert dissenting -- is part of its 2012 state legislative agenda. It has no formal authority; it encourages state officials to adopt gay marriage. State lawmakers, who started a new session Monday, plan to propose a bill that would make Washington the seventh state to allow same-sex marriage.

Joe McDermott, the first openly gay county council member, sponsored the marriage statement. McDermott said it was consistent with language backed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and primary sponsors of state legislation, Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, both from Seattle.

McDermott said he and his partner Michael Culpepper were engaged late last year. Marriage is important to them, McDermott said, because it's a term that's "universally understood," that explains a relationship in a way "domestic partnership" does not.

"I don't want to leave Washington state to be married to the man I love. I want that opportunity here," he added.

Lambert, a Republican, said gay marriage should go to a statewide vote. "Something this big needs to have the people weigh-in," she said.

Reagan Dunn, one of three council Republicans to support the gay-marriage statement, congratulated McDermott on his engagement, calling it "great news."

But Dunn, a candidate for state attorney general (along with Democratic council member Bob Ferguson), wanted to add language saying the council believed the issue should ultimately be decided by a statewide vote.

Dunn said he had "no question" voters would approve gay-marriage. He argued that a statewide vote would give gay marriage "more legitimacy and authority moving forward."

The four council Republicans (Dunn, Lambert, Jane Hague and Pete von Reichbauer) voted for Dunn's amendment; but it was rejected by the five council Democrats.

King County Executive Dow Constantine supports gay marriage.

A poll by University of Washington political scientists last October found support for gay marriage at 55 percent across the state. Among Republicans, support statewide was just 24 percent; among Democrats it was 84 percent.

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